MLB Picks: Rays at Red Sox Series Odds and Predictions
by Darin Zank - 9/15/2011
There aren't many playoff races still going on in baseball, but we might have one in the battle for the American League Wild-Card berth. Not too long ago the Boston Red Sox seemed like shoo-ins for the playoffs. But with six losses in their last seven games, they seem intent on making things interesting.
Meanwhile the Tampa Bay Rays have climbed to within spittin' distance of the Sox. So there should be a playoff-race atmosphere when the two teams meet for a four-game series at Fenway Park beginning Thursday night.
Setting the Scene
Boston coughed up a late lead Wednesday and lost to the Toronto Blue Jays, 5-4. So the Sox are now just 3-10 this month.
Tampa, meanwhile, just dropped two of three games in Baltimore, losing Wednesday night, 6-2. Still, the Rays have won eight of their last 11.
So heading into this series Boston trails the AL East-leading New York Yankees by four games, but leads Tampa by four games in the Wild-Card race.
The Pitching Matchups
The Rays will send Jeremy Hellickson (12-10, 2.96) to the mound for Thursday's series opener (7:10 p.m. Eastern) against rookie righthander Kyle Weiland (0-1, 6.75) for the Sox. Then Friday James Shields (15-10, 2.70) goes for Tampa vs. Josh Beckett (12-5, 2.49) for Boston (7:10 p.m. Eastern). Jeff Niemann (10-7, 3.97) then starts for the Rays Saturday (4:10 p.m. Eastern, Fox) against Jon Lester (15-7, 3.07) for the Red Sox. And David Price (12-12, 3.34) will start Sunday (1:35 p.m. Eastern, TBS) for Tampa vs. knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (7-6, 5.13) for the Beantowners.
Hellickson is having a fine sophomore campaign, with 17 quality outings in 26 starts. Over his last five starts he's allowed just eight earned runs in 36 innings pitched. And in three starts vs. Boston this season Hellickson has given up eight ER in 18 IP.
Weiland, meanwhile, will be making his fourth career start. Last Saturday he allowed three ER in four innings vs. the Rays.
Shields has a string of four starts in a row of allowing one ER or less, and on the year he owns a 1.03 WHIP and a 210/57 K/BB ratio. In other seasons he might be getting some Cy Young consideration. In four starts this year vs. the Sox Shields has allowed 10 ERs on 21 hits in 31 IP.
Beckett left his last start 10 days ago in the fourth inning after twisting an ankle. In his four previous starts he'd allowed 13 ERs over 25 IP. But in two starts this year vs. Tampa he's been dominant, holding the Rays scoreless on just two hits in 17 IP.
Niemann had a good outing Monday at Baltimore, but he's been getting knocked around just a bit lately, allowing 21 ERs in his last 32 IP. But he's been great in two starts vs. Boston this year, allowing just two ERs on five hits in 17 IP.
Lester had been on a run of five quality starts in a row before allowing four ERs in four innings vs. the Rays last Sunday. Overall, in three starts vs. Tampa this year Lester has given up eight ERs in 18 innings of work.
Price has strung together seven straight quality starts, giving up nine ERs over his last 51 IP. And in four starts this year vs. the Red Sox he's allowed eight ERs in 27 IP.
Wakefield picked up his 200th career victory in his last start, even though he gave up five ERs in six IP. And he's allowed at least four ERs in six of his last seven starts. In two starts this year vs. Tampa Wakefield has given up five ERs in 10 IP.
So far this year Tampa has taken nine of 14 games from Boston, and four of five games at Fenway. The Rays made this weekend's series much more interesting by sweeping a three-game set with the Sox in St. Petersburg last weekend. And nine of the 14 games have played ‘under’ the totals.
The Injury Front
Boston slugger Adrian Gonzalez tweaked a calf muscle Wednesday, and his status for Thursday is uncertain. And Sox DH David Ortiz has missed recent action with a sore back. Bettors may want to check out the lineups for this weekend's games before getting down action.
Rays vs. Red Sox Betting Odds and Trends
Bodog is lining Boston as a -180 favorite to win this series, with Tampa getting +150 as the underdog, according to MLB odds.
Tampa is 40-33 on the road this season.
Boston is 43-30 at home this season.
‘Over/unders’ are 60-79 in Rays games this season.
‘O/U’s are 39-29 in games played at Fenway Park this season.
MLB Picks: Rays vs. Red Sox Predictions
Tampa Bay is the hot team, while Boston is reeling a bit. And the Rays look like they've got an advantage in the pitching matchups. So we'll go with Tampa (and the underdog price) to win this series.
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